Making the Grade / Absolutely Almost


Making the GradeLisa Graff instantly made my author “auto-buy” list after I finished and LOVED A Tangle of Knots last year. Furthermore, I confidently recommend her to middle grade fans all the time, so you can imagine my high expectations going into her newest novel, Absolutely Almost. Thankfully, she didn’t disappoint with this wonderfully written, incredibly realistic, and often bittersweet story {who knows what I would do if I didn’t like the book?}. I share my full thoughts below!

Making the Grade Absolutely AlmostSummary: Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. {Goodreads}

Main Character Development {A+}: Oh, Albie. There are some characters that just get to you the moment you begin reading, and such was the case when I started Albie’s story. He isn’t extraordinary. He is no genius or superhero or child prodigy. He has no special talent, which goes against what the middle grade genre often relies on – kids with impressive powers or skills to set the background for the story to happen. Yet Albie is still someone with a range of emotions deserving to be heard, and Graff tackles this idea perfectly. On top of this, he’s portrayed in such a realistic light as a fifth grader trying to find his place in the world {Did I also mention that he fits the bill for diverse characters in kids’ books?!}. For Albie’s development alone, Lisa Graff will forever be a favorite author of mine.

Supporting Character Development {A-}: Whereas Albie’s development is above and beyond what I originally expected, the supporting characters are just what is needed to move the story along. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you compare the two categories, the secondary characters don’t shine as much as Albie does. I wish that Graff delved deeper into a few of their stories, especially with such interesting topics at hand {for example, reality television and how it affects a family}. However, the most important supporting character – Calista – shows many layers, and I think she will hit different feelings for parents and kids, and the same goes for Albie’s own mom and dad.

Engaging and Well-Paced Plot {A}: What I find most difficult about realistic fiction for this particular audience is keeping the reader interested. With stories about magic, adventure, and mysteries abound, contemporary books have to grab the attention of the reader and maintain it for them to keep reading. Lisa Graff does this, despite what may at first seem like a bland story. The short chapters flow together well too; the story moves right along at a good pace.

Interesting and Consistent Voice {A+}: This goes right back to Albie’s character development, because in creating such a layered and complex character, Graff also manages to write Albie’s story with a unique voice. An easy A+ right there! :)

Vivid Writing and Language {A+}: I don’t write down my favorite quotes from novels, nor do I mark up books, but gosh, I was close with Absolutely Almost. It may seem like an easy read, but a closer look will tell you that it takes a talented writer to craft such an outstanding novel. I have loved following Lisa Graff’s works over the years, and if her past few works are any indication, she is getting better with each one!

Memorability/Lasting Impact {A+}: Overall, Absolutely Almost left me feeling happy, upset, frustrated, surprised, but most importantly, satisfied. As much as I would have loved to read more about Albie, I think Graff left the story on the perfect note. Definitely recommended – you won’t regret reading it.

Final Grade: A+

Have a lovely rest of your day!


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